Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 2/8/09.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (II Tim. 4:7).
Have you ever pondered how it is possible to surrender all to Jesus and still fight the good fight and finish the race? How improbable is it to surrender all control over your life to God while girding your loins to fight for what is right and true and holy, what you believe in, what you hold dear? The incongruities of surrendering to God, while upholding your principles can make you a little crazy around the edges, which is why I'm asking the Spirit to unravel the mystery for us here and to show us the heart of the Father in this matter.
The Bible text runs red with the blood of men and women who fought the good fight. He wasn't the first, but we'll begin with Moses' call to go down to Egypt to set the children of Israel free from Pharaoh's tyranny using the mighty right arm of the Lord God Almighty. After the debacle with the golden calf and the 10 faithless spies resulting in 40 years circling Sinai, Joshua was told to enter Canaan and put all the inhabitants thereof to the sword, man, woman, and child. God gave them the land, but they had to fight to take possession of it, which sometimes seems to be a metaphor for the Christian life as well. All throughout their history, the Israelites had to fight for what they had, sometimes on the right side of God's will as in the conquest of Canaan, and sometimes on the wrong side, as Hopni and Phinehas found out when they took the Ark of the Covenant into the battle with the Philistines (a compelling story and a really good read found in I Sam. 4:3-7:1).
King David was the great warrior king who fought for the Lord's children through good times and bad, battling through righteous and sin, rebellion and repentance, Philistines without and compulsions within. As a result of it, he came to know the Lord up close and personal, a man after His own heart, who did God's will in spite of himself (I Sam. 13:14; Acts 13:22).
Flash forwarding the historical account into modern times, had the American colonists not dumped the ship load of tea into Boston Harbor, and declared, "No more taxation without representation," we might all still be learning how to curtsey to the Queen, and perhaps be speaking "the King's English" in America today (which might have been an improvement). Had we not stood against Hitler and Hirohito during World War II, we might be speaking either German or Japanese today.
Had Abraham Lincoln not joined the good battle against the evils of slavery, blacks might still be toiling in the cotton fields or serving "massah" in other ways. Had Rosa Parks meekly given up her seat and moved to the back of the bus, and Dr. King not led the struggle against injustice, we might still be counting a black man as worth only 3/5th of a white man. No matter what you think of his politics, Barack Obama could never have taken the oath of office for the highest position in the land, had many people of conscience and integrity not fought and died over the years, that all men and women might be free and equal. I have grieved over the injustice and oppression of blacks since college days, and I confess that confronted with the ignorance and prejudice that still lurks just beneath the surface, I doubted America would elect a black man or a white woman either, not because of their political persuasions, but because of their race and gender.
God be praised that I was wrong and for letting me live long enough to see America begin to fulfill our founding fathers' convictions, reflected in the constitution, i.e., that all men are created equal under God with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Truthfully, our founding fathers' words were more prophecy than accomplished fact. Their lives weren't as ideal as their principles, for many of them had slaves, but they saw into the future and knew what must come and had the courage to act upon it.
Dr. King was murdered before he saw any of his prophecies fulfilled, but his words reflect his heart and his vision. In one of his speeches, he prophesied, "Justice will roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream." In the speech he made the night before he was killed, he declared emotionally, "I do not fear what men will do to me, for I have been to the Mountain Top and have seen the Promised Land. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord God Almighty!" We're a long way from realizing that sentiment in the world today, but thanks be for prophets who pulled back the veil and gave us a glimpse into the heart of the Father: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ'" (II Cor. 4:6). Without bloodshed, sweat and tears, and the faith of God in the hearts of men and women, none of this could have come to pass. With His help, we can move forward to the time foreseen by Isaiah, when nations "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isa. 2:4).
Before that can happen, however, we must all visit the mountain top, which is a metaphor for Mount Zion, the place where God "dwells." Of course, the closer we get to it, the more we realize that this sacred place, also known as the "holy of holies" is located within us, where by the power of the indwelling Spirit, we may fellowship with our Father whenever we need to or He wants to reveal something to us. As someone who treasures the Old Testament, I am so in awe of this fabulous gift He gave us. Christ came to show us the Father, who through the Spirit, is available to all men. This is indeed "the Good News of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord" (Lk. 2:10-11).
There are some who are so downtrodden and disenfranchised that they feel the mountain top is not for them, but for someone more "worthy." Others seem to believe that they own its lofty peaks. Isaiah spoke to all of us when he declared, "Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places plain" (Isa. 40:5). This has corporate, as well as individual application, as God elevates our faithless low places, and brings down arrogance or pride in our own efforts. All gets surrendered to the Father of lights in whom is no shadow of turning.
The problem for me is that surrender is just not in my nature or vocabulary either. Some of us were born with the attitude, "Get out of my way. I'll do this myself!" Others seem to have a more meek and mild nature which often implies, "Please take care of me. I can't do it alone." Thankfully, there's no credit or blame for either attitude, because some things are "nature" rather than "nurture."
Those of us who are first born, tend to have a "take charge" mentality. Mother depended upon me to help her with my two younger sisters because she had three jobs, helping dad with the dairy farm, being a housewife and mother, and then managing his office for him later on. She needed me to pick up the slack at home, which I did willingly and effectively. That experience set me up for feeling the need to take care of others, and it took decades for God to show me what is my responsibility and what is His. I've written about my struggles with codependency before, so I'll only comment further that codependency is one of the most difficult addictions to break, because it is the one not only sanctioned, but applauded by the church. Taking care of other people sounds so spiritual, so righteous, but if God has not authorized it, it is bondage of the highest degree. Codependency is primary, progressive, chronic, and fatal, because often the only way to stop, is to die. This is why care givers often fall prey to disabilities and disease.
As I tell the old dears at Medicalodge, they have a Ph.D. in surrender. Just by being there, they have given up most of what they held dear in this life. With no more responsibility to care for themselves or others, they smile when I suggest that now that they are free from the chores of planning meals, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, and taking casseroles to the sick, to name a few, they now have time to spend with the Lord.
The older I get, the fewer things I can accomplish in a day, and I know that's by His design. He did not, as Lenny expressed it, create us to be human doings, but as human beings, His children. What a marvel it is that what we cannot do on our own, i.e., surrender, He takes care of that by the aging process. I don't like it, but I see how it works. It also helps me to understand the monastic orders a little bit. Those dear folks have given up all struggle with this world's problems, surrendered their autonomy and independence, and put themselves under the supervision and care of their superiors. It sounds very righteous, no doubt, but what they have perhaps not understood, is the undeniable fact that though you may give up your outward struggles, by entering a nunnery or monastery (or jail), confinement and/or isolation does nothing to abate the struggles raging within.
Next to Jesus, Isaiah is my favorite prophet because his words have consistently blessed my life. In his day, ordinary men and women were NOT filled with God's Spirit, so they had to turn to the Mosaic prophets and priests anointed by God for help with their lives. However, like people everywhere, when they needed help, they sometimes trusted in things or people who were not appointed by or surrendered to God. About these misguided folks, Isaiah observed, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!" (Isa. 31:1).
That is perhaps the answer to the whole riddle of how to surrender, how to give up our self efforts, while still serving God. We look to the Lord for guidance and for course correction. Providentially, He provides it even when we forget to seek His wisdom for help. Saul of Tarsus was NOT looking to the Lord for guidance when he set out on his trip to Damascus with murderous intentions toward the new Christians. He thought he already knew what God had called him to do. It seemed like a fine idea at the time, one which did not deter or hinder God in the slightest. He simply blinded Saul with His Light, threw him off his horse, and waited until the zealot asked, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:5). That's a VERY good question, by the way, and one which we should regularly ask of those who would seek to direct our steps or our actions.
God provides many things to show us our inability to serve Him without help. Our Internet ministry was stopped cold by two of God's ordained stumbling blocks: electronics and weather. My modem died on Saturday, January 24, but the closest Apple dealer is in Fayetteville, AR, 60 miles south of here. There wasn't time to drive down there before they closed, meaning I had to wait until Monday. A killer ice storm was bearing down on us by then, so I had it shipped. The storm shut down the power in NW Arkansas, and that delayed the modem getting here until Saturday, the 31st. It was no sooner installed than my computer "gave up the ghost."
Lenny had an appointment at the VA Hospital the following Tuesday, so we took the computer to the Apple dealer, who shipped it off to the factory for intensive repairs. I've always said that if the Lord doesn't provide, the ministry cannot continue. Without a computer, there is no Internet Ministry. When I asked Him about that, and my life's work that is in that "infernal machine," He kindly replied, "I will never leave you without." What sweet assurance that really was to my troubled soul. We got the computer back Friday, Feb. 6th, good as new, and now we resume with whatever the Lord has in mind for the ministry.
I took the time not on the Internet to update my A.P. Adams sites. As I was working on his "The True Basis of Redemption" (Link at end). I found the following paragraph which fits perfectly with our premise that we must surrender all, even our works to God:
"There is one passage of scripture that may occur to the reader that perhaps I ought to notice in this connection; it is Phil. 2: 12: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." To many this passage seems to make one's salvation depend entirely upon his own efforts; he is to work out his own salvation, i.e., he is to save himself by his own works. But of course it cannot mean this, for if it did it would contradict other scripture which expressly declares that we are not saved by works but by faith "without works." What then does it mean? Read the next verse. "For it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). There you have it again. "All things are of God" (I Cor. 11:12). When God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, what part is there left for the individual to do? The willing and the doing is about the whole of it, is it not? And if God working in you does both the willing and the doing according to His good pleasure, then there is not much room for the good works of self; it is as the apostle says, "I labored more than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me" (I Cor. 15:10). Thus even this text teaches the same doctrine that we have learned from so many others: our salvation is of God.
"Salvation is life indeed (I Tim. 6: 19, R. V.). This is the consummation of creation, and the work of the Creator, just as much as it was "in the beginning." But what shall we do then with the other verse, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling?" Why the meaning of this is plain enough: work out what the Lord works in; that is all there is to it. God is working in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure; now you work that out; let the life inwrought of God be manifested outwardly, that all may know that you have been with Jesus and learned of Him. You can only work out what God works in; you cannot work for your salvation, or secure salvation by working; but the salvation, i.e., the life, that God imparts, we may manifest, and that is what the text enjoins that we should do." End Quote.
Father, we bow before Your plan of the ages. We'd like to always surrender ourselves to Your will, but we can't even do that. You have provided for us in all things, even helping us to surrender. We were crucified with Christ in weakness, but we live in Him by the power of God. We give honor and glory to Your Holy Name, now and forever. Amen. Jan Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
Surrendering to God is Harder than Giving a Cat a Pill
Working for Jesus? Surrendering to God, II
A Covenant With Death? Surrendering to God, IV
The True Basis of Redemption by A.P. Adams
The Family Fix, Surrendering to God, V
Your Mortal Body, Surrendering to God, VI
Echoes From Sodom, Surrendering to God, VII
Judgment: His or Ours? Surrendering to God, VIII
Why did Christ have to die? Surrendering to God, IX
The Pearl of Great Price,Surrendering to God, X
Tested by Fiery Trials, Surrendering to God, XI
Sibling Rivalry, Surrendering to God, XII
When Parents and Churches Fail, Surrendering to God, XIII
The Blessed Hope of His Appearing, Surrendering to God, XIV
Does God Need Us? Surrendering to God, XV
Does God Need Our Faith? Surrendering to God, XVI
The Glory Road
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firstname.lastname@example.org This site was created on 02/07/09
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister
and last updated on 07/29/09.